Restaurants in Rome Open in August

Restaurants in Rome open in August
Palatium, a restaurant in Rome that’s open for most of August

Traditionally, much of Rome shuts down in August. (Thank Emperor Augustus for that). That’s less the case every year, with businesses trying to stay open for more of the summer, thanks to a little something known as the economic crisis.

Even so, lots of independent stores and restaurants still close for much of August. And, when it comes to dining, that includes some of the best spots.

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Spending August in Rome? Plan Your Attack

Ferragosto in Rome
I've written before about ferragosto, the August holiday when shops shutter, restaurants close, and Italians flee for the hills (or beaches). 

But it's time for another reminder.

That's because I think there's a big misconception about ferragosto: Primarily, that it's only a couple of weeks long, and that it starts on Aug. 15. In reality? Every business owner (and family) decides when to take their holiday, and for how long. So I've seen closures ranging from mid-July to early August, from early August to early September, or for just a couple of days in mid-August. (The popular restaurant shown above, Checchino dal 1887, is closed from Aug. 5 to Sep. 3, for example). 

How much you'll be affected by ferragosto also depends, very much, on the neighborhood you're in. The area right around the Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona continues to hum with activity. But center's more "authentic" quarters, particularly Monti, Testaccio, and Trastevere, are starting to feel like ghost towns. And since those tend to be where the city's best restaurants and most interesting shops are located, that's a challenge for travelers.

So if you have to come to Rome in August (or early September), be prepared to have a plan of attack.

Here's a good listing of restaurants open in August 2012 from Katie Parla and another from Tavole Romane, and here's a general guide to what to expect in Italy in August that I wrote for Walks of Italy. And, just so it's not all doom-and-gloom, here's a much more optimistic post from the lovely Kathy McCabe on why she actually likes traveling to Italy in August (crazy, Kathy, crazy!).

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Metro A Closes for August (Partly)

Metro map for Rome, Italy

Important news: Big parts of Line A of Rome's metro system will be closed in August. And, yes, Rome's metro system has only two lines. So take note!

For work and for construction of Rome's third metro line, Linea C, Metro A has already been closing at 9pm. Here are the new changes for August:

From July 30-August 3, there won't be any service on Line A between Termini and Anagnina. Instead, there will be replacement bus services. (This half of the metro line includes stops at Vittorio Emanuele, Manzoni, and San Giovanni). Until 1:30am, though, there will be service in the other direction, from Termini to Battistini (if you're traveling to Rome, you're more likely to use this side of the line, which includes stops at Barberini, Spagna, and Ottaviano-San Pietro).

From August 4-29, there won't be any service between Termini and Arco di Travertino, a section of the line that includes Vittorio Emanuele, Manzoni and San Giovanni, although that part will operate on Aug. 6, 13, 20 and 27. (They're all Saturdays). Until 9pm every day, the metro will be active in the other direction, from Termini to Battistini, as well as from Arco di Travertino to the end of the line at Anagnina. And on those Saturdays, Aug. 6, 13, 20 and 27, the line will be active between Battistini-Termini and Arco di Travertino-Anagnina until 1:30am.

Whew!

Don't worry, though — the metro doesn't connect lots of major tourist sites in Rome (there's no, say, Pantheon or Piazza Venezia stop… something they're more or less trying to change with Line C), and in the summer, it can be uncomfortably hot and crowded. So here are six alternative modes of transport for those hot Rome days.

 

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Rome Restaurants Actually Open in Ferragosto

Delicious rigatoni amatriciana at Lo Scopettaro in Testaccio, open during ferragosto.
You don't realize how dire the dining situation is in Rome until you
call 20 places on your list in late August, the height of ferragosto, looking for a reservation
somewhere, anywhere, with edible food. But all that pulling out my hair
(and running up my phone bill) allowed me to, at the very least, come
up with a list of places that are open. Right now. And good, not like
those awful tourist places you see on the percorso between the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain.

And thus, I reveal to you (drum roll, please!) my hard-earned list. Let
no man or woman in Rome have to wait seven more days for a good dinner
out.

-Taverna Trilussa. Trastevere. I just wrote about this place;
it's slightly pricey, but the pasta, done the traditional Roman way, is
pretty darn good. Try to reserve a seat outside. +39 065818918.

Asinocotto. Trastevere. It's next on my list for what I've heard about
its traditional-dishes-with-a-twist, like ravioli filled with salted
cod and marjoram or coconut mousse with gingered, dried fruits. +39 06
5898985.

Roscioli.
Campo dei Fiori. Overpriced and probably overrated, but also well-liked (at least by tourists) for
its classic Italian pastas, meat and fish. Another plus for visitors:
It's right in the heart of the centro storico. +39 066875287.

Glass.
Trastevere. Modern, hip, and highly-renowned. I'm told it's hard to get
out of there for less than €50 a head, at the very least. I'm also told
it's well worth it. I'm saving up my money to find out. +39 0658335903.

Nonna Betta.
Ghetto. I generally try to steer clear of the Ghetto, but I've heard
this is a gem (or at least, fairly good) in a sea of tourist traps.
Come here if you have a fried-food craving or need to nosh kosher. +39
0668806263.

-Lo Scopettaro. Testaccio. Boasts traditional (and cheap) cucina romana; I'm going tonight, so stay tuned. It's been on my list for a while. Update: Read about my experience at Lo Scopettaro here. +39 065742408.

Le Tre Zucche.
Portuense. Off-the-beaten-path, but some locals say it's worth it for
the yummy, creative food; diners especially recommend the tasting menu.
+39 065560758

-Bucatino. Testaccio. A favorite for classic Roman dishes like bucatini all'amatriciana and gnocchi. Cheap prices. +39 065746886.

Osteria dell'Arco. Porta Pia. Creative Roman cuisine, moderate prices. +39 068548438.

None of those fit the bill? Ethnic restaurants (like Monti's Maharajah) and chains (like Insalata Ricca) are usually open during ferragosto, too.

Any good ones I forgot?

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Eight Tips When Planning a Trip to Rome

If you don't think about what time of year you're coming, you might end up here during ferragosto. Goodbye, shopping and fine dining!

Yes, your passport’s important. But that’s not what I mean. As much as many people seem to plan their trips to Rome down to the detail, there are some mistakes that can be easy to make… from using TripAdvisor for restaurants to coming during ferragosto. Below, eight items to keep in mind while planning a trip to Rome.

1. Bring your student ID. If you’re a university student, bring your I.D. card with you. It’s true that this gets you fewer discounts than it does in more student-friendly countries like, say, Greece, but it does get you a discount at the Vatican (€8 instead of €15) and can come in handy elsewhere, too. If you’re an E.U. citizen, also make sure to bring an I.D. with you whenever you’re sightseeing: You lucky Europeans get discounts at almost all of Rome’s sites, including the Colosseum, forum, and Borghese Gallery.Everything's closed during ferragosto... so don't come then!

2. Don’t come in July or August Think about what time of year you’re coming. Yes, little Johnny gets the summer off from school. But so do everybody else’s kids, so this is when the hotels are full (and pricey), the Colosseum’s packed, and you have to stand on tiptoes to get a look at the Vatican’s Laocoön. Not to mention that it’s hot, sweaty, and in August, Romans celebrate ferragosto — meaning that the city’s best restaurants and family-run shops are closed. (For proof, see photo above). Scheduling limitations are understandable. But if there’s any way to sweep away to Rome in June, or better yet, spring break, fall, or Christmas, you’ll have a much more relaxing, rewarding experience. Little Johnny will thank you.

3. Do your restaurant research… Understandably, a lot of people come to Rome and think, “All these restaurants serve Italian food. They MUST all be good!” Sadly, that’s not the case. You would wind up eating in a tourist trap if you showed up at Times Square hungry and confused (I know I have…), and you will wind up having the same experience in Rome. Not might. Will. It’s a tourism-based city, and lots of restaurants take advantage of that, shoveling their customers terrible, microwaved food along with a gut-wrenching bill.

So if you’re spending any amount of time thinking about what museums and sites you want to see in Rome (and who doesn’t?), then do yourself a favor: Use some of that time to think about where you’ll eat, too. You’ll be spending at least two hours a day dining, three or four if you’re doing it the Italian way.  You don’t want to feel like those hours, or euros, are wasted.

4. …but don’t do your restaurant research on TripAdvisor. Yes, TripAdvisor is good for some things. It is not good for restaurant recommendations, at least here in Rome. It’s too easy to play the system — aggressively asking clients to post 5-star reviews, having cousins and siblings put up fake reviews, etc. I’m not casting any aspersions on the restaurants that are listed as Rome’s “best” on TripAdvisor. But. Suffice it to say that I’ve never heard of most of the TripAdvisor top-15 (Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, a local favorite, and Babbo’s, which is pretty good for the value, aside), among anyone claiming to be a “foodie” or even “very enthusiastic eater.” And those restaurants have never, ever come up as recommendations to me from any Roman or expat friends in all the times I’ve asked.

But the bad news continues. Also be wary of guidebooks, since as with all restaurant scenes, things change quickly here in Rome, and guidebook-info is often at least a year behind. (Not to mention that as soon as a restaurant winds up in a guidebook, it often starts resting on its laurels). For proof, just check out my post on Ristorante Montevecchio. In 2007, it had a glowing review from NPR. But three years is a long, long time in the dining world.

If you do your research, you can have pizza like this. Formula Uno, RomeSo what do you do? Well, research elsewhere — preferably in recent newspaper articles like, okay, mine, and on good Rome-food websites like Katie Parla’s www.parlafood.com. I’ll also be adding more and more restaurants to the “Food and Drink” part of this site, so stay tuned.

5. Think ahead of time about taking a tour. Because if you’re interested in the concept at all, what will happen is this: You’ll get to the Colosseum. You’ll see the line. Some nice-looking 20-something holding a clipboard will stop you and say “Hey, do you speak English? Do you want to skip this twenty-three-hour line?” And before you know it, you’ll be hustled into a tour that, well, might get mixed reviews, to put it nicely.

Instead, do your research in advance and think about what you might want to take a tour of. (The Vatican can overwhelm visitors, and those companies worth their salt arrange for you to skip the line; the Forum can seem like a pile of rubble without a knowledgeable guide; an evening city walk can help you get your bearings). Then book it. Done. You don’t have to think about it again — nor do you have to get swept into a group of 50 with a barely-English-speaking guide, all because you didn’t book a well-researched company in advance.

6. If making a strict itinerary, know your closing dates. I never fail to be saddened — and surprised — by the number of visitors who come to the Vatican Vatican museums on Sunday, expecting to waltz right in. Why do these downtrodden hordes surprise me? Because the Vatican museums (including the Sistine Chapel and Raphael rooms, of course) are always closed on Sunday. (Except for the last Sunday of the month, when it’s free, but that means the line snakes for miles and miles, so….).

If you’re planning your sites day by day, make sure you know what will be open when. If you can’t find out opening dates for a museum/restaurant/site through a quick search online, give them a call on Skype. Also, remember that if you want to go to the Borghese Gallery (and you should! It’s lovely!), you must reserve in advance.

7. Don’t get a RomaPass. Necessarily. A lot of visitors do this ahead of time because it seems like a great idea: Once you activate it, your first two entries to sites are free, the rest are discounted, and you get free public transport, for three days. Sounds pretty great, right?

Before you spring for it, though, consider which sites you’ll be going to first — and if “skipping the line” is worth it. (The only RomaPass site that tends to have a long line is the Colosseum). A RomaPass costs €25. Let’s say you’re coming to Rome and you’re doing a Colosseum tour with a company that lets you cut the line. So instead, you immediately do the Capitoline museums (€7.50 saved) and the Palazzo Barberini (€5 saved), neither of which have lines that I’ve ever seen. In the next three days, you would have to take the bus or metro six times and hit up three more sites that charge you entry for the card to even pay for itself. (Are you even going to three more sites that charge you entry? Most top spots, including the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, St. Peter’s Basilica, and other churches, don’t have an entry fee. Plus, the RomaPass does not include the Vatican museums, a €15 entry).

You also don’t have to buy a RomaPass in advance: If you decide you want to buy one once you get here, you can purchase it from any of the ticket desks of the participating sites or from ticket desks at some metro stops, including Termini, Spagna and Ottaviano.

For a RomaPass FAQ, click here; for a list of the museums it includes and their respective discounts, click here.DSC_0103

8. Forget the traveler’s cheques. Or, at least, don’t go too crazy: They’re nice insurance, but can be way more of a hassle than they’re worth. Bringing a big wad of cash and expecting to change it when you get here is a bad idea, too, only because any of the money-exchange places you find will give you a “you-must-be-kidding” (and not in a good way) kind of rate.

Easier: Bring a couple of ATM cards and use them when you get here. (At least one will work. Really.) For bigger purchases, use a credit card, like Visa’s CapitalOne, that doesn’t bang you with a surcharge for international fees. Both options will give you the “High Street” exchange rate, not the rate that some guy with a storefront and some pretty currency symbols came up with.

Just remember two things. First: Credit cards are accepted far less often in Italy than they are in other countries, including the U.S. and U.K., so you should always have cash on hand. Second: To be on the safe side, make sure you call your bank and credit card companies in advance to inform them that you are going abroad, so charges that they see won’t be the nefarious workings of some Roman scam artist.

If you liked this post, you’ll love The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon or through my site here! I’m also free for one-on-one consulting sessions to help plan your Italy trip.

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Ferragosto, When All the Italians Flee Rome

Chiuse per ferie -- a common sign during ferragosto in Rome.
If you've been wondering why more stores and restaurants seem to be closed than they should be in Rome, it's because ferragosto is nearly here.

Ferrogosto — the period when Italians go on vacation, officially starting August 15 — is rooted in ancient tradition. In 18 B.C., Emperor Augustus, Rome's first emperor, instituted the feriae Augusti, or Augustan holidays. Adding to summertime festivals already celebrated, like the Consualia on August 23, the holidays celebrated the end of major agricultural work. Horse races were held; work set aside.

Two thousand years later, the holiday's origins may have dissipated — but the tradition itself continues, under the only slightly-different name of ferragosto. Italians leave the cities and flock to the seaside, taking two, three, even four weeks off work. The result for those of us left in Rome, and for tourists? Seeing door after closed door on local shops, restaurants, and drycleaner's, all with the sign "chiusa per ferie."

In other words: Come back in September.

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